Abe Says Foreign Dignitaries’ Same-Sex Partners Are Welcome in Japan

  • Prime minister, foreign minister pledge to treat them equally
  • Ruling-party lawmaker apologizes for gay partner comments

Japan's Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Photographer: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP via Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his foreign minister said the same-sex partners of foreign dignitaries should be treated the same as other spouses, rebuffing a ruling-party executive who said they shouldn’t be invited to receptions at the Imperial Palace.

Wataru Takeshita, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s general council, apologized last week after he was criticized for saying that same-sex partners of foreign VIPs shouldn’t be invited to the palace because they didn’t fit with Japanese culture, national broadcaster NHK said.

Takeshita’s comments clashed with efforts by the government to present Japan as open to diversity. The nation is seeking to attract foreign talent to make up for its own shrinking labor force.

“I have given instructions that, from now on, whether people are legally married, or in a de facto marriage, whether they are of the same or different genders, they should be treated as spouses or partners,” Foreign Minister Taro Kono told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday. This will apply to a reception to mark the Emperor’s birthday in December, and to those who are invited to Japan as guests of the foreign ministry, he said.

Abe also told lawmakers that he had met foreign leaders with gay spouses, and that if they were to visit Japan he would like their partners to attend official dinners given at his residence.

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